Calais Campbell sees opportunity with Miami Dolphins

Why Tua Tagovailoa has the most to prove among AFC East QBs (1:15)

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MIAMI -- Nearly five months ago, the Miami Dolphins prepared for a wild card matchup without three of their top five pass-rushers. Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb and Andrew Van Ginkel each suffered season-ending injuries that tested the team's depth and strained its ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Despite Van Ginkel's departure in free agency, the Dolphins made moves this offseason to not only rebuild their depth but develop a rotation that blends veteran experience with the budding star power of Phillips and Chubb.

They signed veteran Shaquil Barrett in March, then drafted Chop Robinson and Mohamed Kamara in the first and fifth rounds of the NFL draft, respectively. Miami also signed six-time Pro Bowler Calais Campbell last week. With Phillips and Chubb's status for Week 1 still unclear as the team enters training camp, the 16-year veteran has an opportunity to contribute right away for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

"That's a big reason why I signed here, because I feel like there's a really good opportunity here," Campbell said. "Very talented team all over the field, both offense and defense. When you go through the roster of who you have and see so many people that I feel like we can play together and build that team chemistry you need -- we'll be a force to be reckoned with. I really like the coaching staff. I mean, (Defensive coordinator) Anthony Weaver is a guy I'm very familiar with, (have) a lot of respect for, and he's a big reason I really believe in this team. I know the kind of work ethic he has and just the kind of man he is, and I really think this defense is going to be a top -- I don't want to go too crazy, but it's going to be a really good defense."

Campbell expects to play "all over the place" under Weaver but feels most comfortable playing 5-technique defensive end, lining up opposite teams' offensive tackle on either side. His familiarity with Weaver after playing under him with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021 and 2022 should allow for a seamless transition in South Florida -- although Weaver has quickly been given numerous options to fill his front seven.

Robinson and Kamara should rotate in with Phillips, Chubb and Barrett at outside linebacker while Campbell, who can also slide inside, and Zach Sieler will anchor a defensive line that lost DT Christian Wilkins this offseason to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Weaver isn't worried about finding his starters. He's more concerned with who will finish games.

"They always say the first wave of the tsunami does damage, but the second wave does the most damage," Weaver said. "So for me, sometimes people get overly concerned about who is starting the football games -- that means nothing to me. I want to know who is finishing the football games. I think you've got your best chance at finishing football games when guys are fresh. You can't do that at every position -- particularly when there are bigs out there running around in this heat, you're going to want to rotate them a little bit."

Based on how the Ravens distributed defensive snaps last season, expect the Dolphins to spread the workload more than they did in 2023, when Wilkins and Sieler played 80.4% and 76.8% of snaps, respectively. No Ravens defensive lineman played more snaps than Justin Madubuike's 726 (65.5%), but five defensive linemen played at least a quarter of the team's defensive snaps last season.

The Miami offense that led the NFL in yards per game remains intact in 2024, but the defense will break in at least four new starters. If the Dolphins want to snap the Buffalo Bills' streak of four straight AFC East titles and win their first playoff game since the turn of the century, that defense will have to jell quickly under Weaver.

Adding a player like Campbell to the mix should help expedite the process.

"I feel like the main reason why I wanted to come here was because I really believe in who Weaver is as a coach and in our relationship," Campbell said. He added: "With somebody like 'Coach Weave,' he knows I'm never going to try to hurt the team. I'm always going to be in position to try to do what's best for the team."